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thought of disowning or rejecting Christ: I acknowledge him to be my Lord and Master." Hold, sinner, and consider what you are saying. You have no thought of rejecting Christ? Beware then that you are not doing worse; beware that you are not mocking and insulting him. Remember the Roman soldiers. They even bowed their knees, and put a royal robe on him, and set a crown on his head: yet all this was only mockery; and the crown was a crown of thorns. Alas! the lip-service of the bold sinner is a worse mockery, and goes more to his heart; the sins of the believer are sharper thorns to him than any his crown was made of. They strike a bitterer wound, and pierce deeper. To come into Christ's presence, and say you believe in him, and afterward by your works to deny him,-is not this mockery? is not this downright insult? is it not ingratitude and treason against your benefactor and your King? That dreadful night of the agony was the night of the power of darkness. Among the temptations which the tempter then employed against Jesus, few can have been more cutting, than the thought of the multitudes of human beings to whom his Gospel would be preached in vain, to whom his sufferings would bring no healing, on whom his death would only draw down a greater weight of wrath and condemnation. Cannot you
conceive the tempter urging him with some such crafty words as these? Why should you suffer all these things, thou well-meaning but mistaken Jesus? Think of the thousands who will never be the better for your death. Think of the thousands who will be the worse for your death. Think of all those who will be encouraged to sin on, by the trust that you have bought their pardon. Think of all those to whom your Gospel will bring, not life, but death,—not pardon, but condemnation,— not joy, but pains unutterable,—not heaven, but a blacker hell!" With such malicious thoughts may we conceive the Father of lies to have assailed Jesus in that hour of bitterness: and the woe is, there was some truth in them; and that truth wrought like the barb of a poisoned arrow: it made the thought stick in the heart of Jesus and rankle there. For undoubtedly the Gospel of Jesus Christ, when it is not a savour of life unto life, is a savour of death unto death. If men do not become better and happier by it, they become more wicked and wretcheder. If they do not become true Christians in heart and life, they become worse than heathens. Undoubtedly it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of judgement, than for a Christian dying a sinner.
This perhaps may have been the weight
which pressed the most heavily on the soul of the tender-hearted Jesus during his agony. Would God that, as these thoughts pressed on his mind, so they would press on ours! Would God, the thought of the great misery laid up for an unrepentant sinner, which shook and wrung the soul of Jesus, so that an angel was sent to comfort him,--would God, this same thought would shake and wring every living sinner, and haunt him day and night, and give him no respite, till he were frightened and driven out of his sins, and brought to lead a holy life! Bad as are the pains of an awakened conscience, a sleeping conscience is far worse. For you must awake sometime. If you do not come to yourself before you are put into the grave, you must after. Here it is only the smart of a wound, which, however painful, is sure to be cured, if you put the proper salve to it. After death the wound is incurable. God of truth hath spoken it, of all that die in their wickedness: their worm shall never die. Any thing but that, O Lord! any thing but that for the souls that thou hast committed to my charge! Rather let our sins lay hold upon us in this world, and press us down with shame and sorrow, that we may all turn to thee while thou art to be found, and may obtain forgiveness of the past, and the help of the blessed Comforter to heal us, and purify
us, and strengthen us for the time to come, that we may love thee and obey thee as we ought to do!
But let us return to Isaiah. Enough has been said to prove the fulfilment of the 4th, 5th, and 6th verses of the prophecy, which declare that the Messiah was to bear our griefs and to carry our sorrows, and that the Lord would lay on him the iniquity of us all. Now observe what comes next; for the prophecy grows more particular and remarkable as it goes on. The next verses, as rendered by the learned Bishop Lowth, are as follows. "It was exacted, and he was made answerable, and he opened not his mouth. He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By an oppressive judgement he was taken off; and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was he smitten." In these verses we are told, first, that the Messiah, the promised Christ, was to be made answerable for a sum that was required; secondly, that he was to be taken off by an oppressive or unjust sentence; thirdly, that he was dumb and patient before his judges; fourthly, that he was to be brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and to be cut off for the sins of God's people. Here are four very extraordinary assertions; yet they are all fulfilled in Jesus.
In the first place, he was made answerable for what? Isaiah does not tell us. He only says, "it was exacted.” Look into St Paul however, and you will find what was exacted. The ransom of the world, the price of our salvation. For this was Jesus made answerable. It was exacted
from him; and he paid it to the uttermost, with the treasure of his most precious blood. For this reason St Paul admonishes us that we may not do as we please with ourselves; for that "we are not our own, but Christ's," seeing that "we are bought with a price." (1 Cor. vi. 19, 20.)
The second thing foretold of the Messiah in these two verses is, that he was to be taken off by an oppressive or unjust sentence. Can any thing be truer ? Could Isaiah have expressed himself more accurately, if he had written after the crucifixion? Was not the sentence against Jesus utterly oppressive and unjust? What did Pilate say before he gave him up to be executed? "I find no fault in him :" so we learn from St Luke, and St John : "I am innocent of the blood of this just person:" so we read in St Matthew. Here the judge himself, at the very moment when he is delivering Jesus up to a most shameful and bitter death, declares the injustice of his own sentence, the cruelty of his own conduct.
The third thing prophesied of the Messiah in